From the Queens Chronicle:
In addition to their contention that allowing commercial activities to take place over a “sensitive” public utility facility could cause an accident, neighbors argue the linking of the two stores on the short residential block is bound to overwhelm the neighborhood with traffic. They also say it would damage a parcel that residents consider a neighborhood park.
The grassy area, next to the gas facility, still has some greenery, but most of the plant life has been uprooted and lost due to people driving over the sidewalk to park there. The walkway is cracked and broken in several places and the dirt pressed into grooves from the weight of tires.
“It was like a park — people would come there and walk their dogs,” said resident Nikki Ogunkya. “It was nice for the street, but now to walk past it everyday — it’s devastating.”
Felix Ogunkya, Nikki’s husband and the leader of the protest, said that National Grid was unaware of what was happening on the land until he called them. Staffers told him if residents see people parking on the site to call and the company would send someone out to investigate.
“They do it everyday,” Ogunkya said. “How often can we call them?”
He recently enlisted the help of City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-South Ozone Park). Ogunkya said the lawmaker reached out to National Grid and asked them to replace the yellow caution flags, which the utility promised to do within 48 hours — that was on April 19, and they were still not there on Monday.
Karen Young, a spokeswoman for the utility company, said the land where the gas lines are located does not belong to National Grid, so they can’t put up a fence around it. She further asserted that the construction of a driveway on the land would not cause safety issues.
Young suggested that complaints about the broken sidewalk be referred to the city’s Department of Transportation, but said the utility would go out to the site to replace the yellow flags.
Anytime people want to build near or over a gas line, they are required to call a national hotline, Young said, so that representatives from various utilities can check to make sure the area is safe for construction. She did not specify if the landowner in this case had done that.
Similarly, Jennifer Gilbert, a spokeswoman for the DOB, said the owner and contractor are obligated to follow such rules, however, she did not say whether the agency checks to make sure they have done this before it approves the permits.
Anyone else notice a major problem here?
And now a follow up from the organizer:
"National Grid came out to re-insert the yellow caution flags that used to populate the site Wednesday afternoon (I am attaching pictures of the flags so you know what they look like). Unfortunately, none of these flags remained on the site before I brought it to Councilman Wills' notice and he then impressed on National Grid the need to come out to re-insert them.
Interestingly however, just like the Queens Chronicle's report suggests, National Grid support for this is such that they 'graciously' avoided putting any flags up along the path of the proposed driveway even though I have videos that show that there used to be flags right in front of the door that the driveway is to link up to our street. I could think that this was just a co-incidence on their part, but I stopped believing in co-incidences with these guys since I have witnessed what they have been able to do through the DOB: National Grid may just be the next 'helper' to come along for them. Regardless, they are bent on getting this project finished whatever may be the cost or risk!
Anyway, thanks again for all your support. I'll be in touch.